CPS, CTU talks on reopening high schools ‘very productive,’ but parents get few answers at town hall
CPS leaders acknowledged families are frustrated not to have more information by now and admitted the district is still “in the early stages” of planning.
Frustrated high school parents who are supposed to decide by the end of next week whether to send their kids back to Chicago Public Schools classrooms received little detail about high school reopening plans at a virtual town hall Wednesday, even as officials said they’ve made progress in talks with the Chicago Teachers Union.
The informational session with district leaders — advertised as a way “to give families additional opportunities to learn about our plans and provide input” — featured little to no answers about critical elements of the resumption of in-person high school classes. Officials instead discussed the district’s health and safety protocols and staff vaccination efforts.
CPS leaders acknowledged families are frustrated not to have more information by now and admitted the district is still “in the early stages” of planning. But they said their twice weekly meetings with CTU have been “very productive” and said parents’ questions would be used to inform those discussions — a welcome change for many who criticized the district for not taking parent input in the K-8 reopening.
Bogdana Chkoumbova, CPS’ chief of school management, said the forthcoming framework from CPS and CTU “will only provide general guidance,” and administrators at every school would be tasked with creating their own unique plans. One CPS principal said he planned to hold a meeting for his high school community next week but officials did not say whether other schools planned to do so.
Families received opt-in forms Monday — which are due March 19 — for in-person learning in the fourth academic quarter starting April 19. There still is no reopening date set for CPS high schools, however, and no plan has been released.
Among the hundreds of questions parents asked were whether students could expect to keep the same schedules and teachers they currently have in remote learning if high schools reopen, and how parents could be expected to decide on in-person learning without knowing any details. Officials would only say they’re making it a priority to limit any schedule disruptions.
Last summer, when CPS and Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed a fall return to schools, they planned for high school freshmen and sophomores to learn in-person two days a week in a hybrid model along with K-8 students. Juniors and seniors were to stay home, they said, because of complexities with scheduling, pods and social distancing in some of the larger high schools.
But the 25-page plan finalized in August offered no insight on the unique complexities that would come with high school underclassmen attending school in-person. That lack of detail was one of the major criticisms from parents and the CTU when they pushed back against a fall reopening.
Another town hall for elementary school families is scheduled for 5 p.m. next Tuesday.